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Men too struggle for equality

TO EMPOWER: Working towards gender equality.

TO EMPOWER: Working towards gender equality.   | Photo Credit: mamp18workshop.jpg

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It is time to wage a battle for men also, say activists

For long activists have fought for the freedom and equality of women. But now there is a twist in the age old tale. Men and boys are also struggling for gender justice and giving them space is the Southern Regional Consultation of Forum to Engage Men (FEM). It is a nationwide network of Individuals and organisations working towards gender equality by working with men and boys. Launched in 2007, FEM’s attempts to radically reconstruct dominant masculinity in the existing political, economic and socio-cultural structures and the way the gender’s superiority is implicated in today’s practices and norms.

To understand gender equality from a different angle, FEM’s Southern coordinator, Mrs. Bimla Chandrasekran, who heads ‘EKTA’, the centre for counselling and training women and youth in Madurai, organised a discussion. It also worked as a run-up to the 2nd Men Engage global symposium-2014 to be held in November in Delhi.

Mr Ashis Biswas, Senior Advisor of Centre for Health and Social Justice which would be hosting the Delhi symposium said he was expecting over 900 delegates from all over the world to actively participate in nearly 100 breakout sessions.

Global alliance

Men Engage is a global alliance of more than 400 organisations and individuals who want the society to become caring and non-violent. And they believe it is possible if men and boys are equally involved in gender justice and equality. The 1st men engage global symposium was held in Rio de Janeiro in 2009. Since then, the need to integrate men more in development work and other interventions such as HIV/AIDS, gender based violence, maternal health, child care and securing the right of children and family planning has not only been felt and established in a big way but also been given priority.

Around 120 people from various states including Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu took part in the pre-run in Madurai over the weekend.

Attending the discussions, Ashis Biswas said these days, men too are equally filled with stress, difficulties and high pressure. He rued that the culture today was to characterise and stereotype everything with outdated rules whereas the effort should be towards a holistic approach for understanding the implications of masculinities in different domains and disciplines of development and social justice.

“We are exploring ways in which boys are sensitised to issues like gender-based violence and discrimination, harmful practices, sexual violence, violence against children and suicide,” he said.

Point of focus

On the health front too, many are affected by HIV/AIDS, mental disorder due to stress or they are depressed due to unemployment and livelihood. But focus invariably shifts to the plight of women even as men remain stressed due to the various roles and responsibilities bestowed upon them.

Many times youths are influenced by culture, tradition, ethnicity and media in a harmful and violent manner and yet there is not much talk about it and only women are personified as victims.

Dr A. Shantha, retd.professor of Madurai Kamaraj University said the role of media in promoting gender equality was very important. She regretted that media tends to reinforce stereotypes. But now the social media allows all to communicate freely and equally. “Both men and women have equal rights to express their thoughts in order to be on par,” she said.

Elisa a student from Italy, who participated in the day’s discussions said though the situation in Italy is quite different from India and women are not compelled to abide by what men say, but still there were many cases of violence against women. It all led to the common point that not only women but men also need to participate on an equal footing in gender justice to achieve equality in society in true sense.

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Printable version | Jul 20, 2018 12:07:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/men-too-struggle-for-equality/article6419548.ece